PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Republican incumbent Chris Nelson took the high road Sunday in answering an allegation by his Democrat opponent Jeff Barth that Nelson hadn’t told the truth about a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline in their battle for a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
Barth told the South Dakota Democrat convention after receiving the PUC nomination Saturday, “So my opponent Chris Nelson says he has nothing to do with eminent domain. Eminent domain is certainly something he gives to a company when they get a permit for a project. He is telling a lie when he says eminent domain has nothing to do with him.”
State law provides the ability for a public improvement project to take land and compensate the owners for their loss. The PUC is considering a CO2-pipeline permit application from Summit Carbon Solutions.
Nelson issued a lengthy response Sunday night. It said in part:
“First and most importantly, the permit process is guided by state law. Commissioners aren’t free to do whatever they want. Jurisdiction is granted to the commission by state law. The PUC operates within that jurisdiction. Any action outside of that jurisdiction would certainly be struck down by the courts,” Nelson said.
Nelson continued, “Commissioners don’t get to make up the criteria they want (to) use to determine whether a permit should or should not be granted. That criteria is established in state law. Every siting permit application I have voted on has been and must be guided by the criteria in state law. Granting or denying a permit based on something other than criteria in state law would be struck down by the courts.
“Eminent domain is not one of the specified criteria in state law,” Nelson added. “Rather state law outlines what types of projects are eligible to exercise eminent domain. Any dispute regarding whether eminent domain can be exercised must be adjudicated in a court of law. The PUC simply does not have jurisdiction under law to adjudicate eminent domain disputes.”
Nelson also defended his lifestyle as a rural landowner. “I have been involved in farming or ranching in various degrees my entire life. Any insinuation that I don’t value and respect the land and those who care for it would show a deep misunderstanding of who I am,” he said.
But Nelson also used the opportunity to issue a fundraising email. “The race is on and it appears my opponent will say whatever it takes to win. I ask for your help to make sure that doesn’t happen!” he said.